Subterfuge And Betrayal–The Timeline Rigging The Police Chief Test Placing Perez Above Captain Porter On Short List

Mark Straubel, left, former Bridgeport Police Captain with Chief Perez. CT Post photo.

Just days after Captain Mark Straubel was placed on administrative leave in the summer of 2018 for racist texts against the department’s highest-ranking African American officer Captain Roderick Porter, Chief AJ Perez visited him at his house to seek additional assistance with the exam to select a permanent chief, an appeal recorded by Straubel who clearly seemed to be of the mind, if I’m going down for this, you’re going down for that.

Straubel had something planned the chief wasn’t expecting, compiling evidence and recordings to be used against his boss. He’s become a key witness in the federal government’s exam-rigging case against Perez.

On July 30, 2018, after directing Straubel, his chief aide, not to return to police headquarters following the public blow up over the racist texts, Perez went to Straubel’s home.

Captain Roderick Porter. Photo: Bailey Wright / For Hearst Connecticut Media

“Where did you leave the stuff you were working on for me?” Perez asks Straubel, according to the federal complaint written by FBI agent Jennifer Wagner that led to Perez’s arrest accused of scheming results of the police chief selection.

The request was a reference to the draft answers to the oral examination questions that Straubel had prepped for Perez, insider information that had not been shared with any other police chief candidate. Straubel told Perez the information was stored on his police department computer. He offered to sneak into the police department to retrieve the information.

“Sneak in there for me, please,” Perez responded according to the criminal complaint.

The government’s 25-page criminal complaint brings into focus the timeline behind Perez’s alleged efforts to seize materials no other candidate for chief had received including Porter who ranked third on the finalist list and thus was eligible to be chosen permanent chief by Mayor Joe Ganim, according to City Charter regulations. Ganim selected Perez, his long-time friend, whom he had elevated to acting chief in early 2016 following his return to the mayoralty.

It also shows a clear indication by Straubel to document a series of events against his boss he’d share with federal investigators. Ultimately the racist text messages would cause Straubel a lot of grief that led to his retirement from the department. Porter would file a human rights complaint against the city for how it handled the texts.

Several police sources familiar with Straubel and Perez agree that Straubel has the brain power to coach Perez on the exam. Perez, they say is a nice guy but not a test taker at that level. Lieutenant Brian Dickerson, who once commanded the Office of Internal Affairs, was also recruited to coach Perez during the application process.

Perez and former Personnel Director David Dunn were charged with allegedly rigging the police exam for Perez and providing false statement to federal investigators.

The government’s complaint references Straubel as Officer 1, and Dickerson as Officer 2. OIB has confirmed through multiple sources of their assistance on behalf of Perez.

Excerpt from the timeline condensed from government’s complaint:

February 26, 2018, the mayor sent Dunn a letter instructing him in his role as the Personnel Director to initiate an open and competitive examination for the position of police chief and to then certify to the mayor, within 150 days of the request, the three highest scoring candidates from that examination.

In March, Dunn hires search consultant Randi Frank to prepare and administer the examination for chief. She reported exclusively to Dunn.

The process included a review of candidates’ résumés and cover letters, written exam made up of a questionnaire and two essay questions, telephonic oral exam conducted by Frank and a panel interview conducted by five independent panelists.

In May 2018, at the direction of Dunn, Frank commenced the search for a chief. Frank was told by Dunn there should be no requirement that a candidate possess a bachelor’s degree, or any penalty for candidates who did not have one, something Frank found unusual. Perez was the only candidate without a bachelor’s degree.

May 12, 2018, Frank sends Dunn an email with the subject “Revised Advertisement & Testing Questionnaire & Recommendations for Process.” Attached was a “status report of work completed to date and recommendations on how to move forward with interview process as requested.” Also attached to the email was a draft of certain confidential examination materials pertaining to the Written Exam portion of the Examination Process, including a questionnaire, essay questions, and scoring guide for the Written Exam. Frank’s email specifically requested that Dunn “please keep very confidential.”

May 21, 2018, Frank sends Dunn an email with the subject “Bridgeport Police Chief Search.” Attached were the finalized questionnaire and essay questions that Frank intended for use in the Written Exam stage of the police chief Examination Process, along with the associated scoring guide, which set forth the points awarded for various types of answers on the candidates’ questionnaires. Frank noted in the body of the email that the attachments were “confidential.”

Dunn then agreed to provide secretly that confidential material to Perez to ensure that he performed favorably on the examination and thus would remain eligible to be in the top three. In particular, according Straubel who worked for and closely with Perez, the acting chief provided Straubel with a scoring guide for the questionnaire.

No other applicant received the scoring guide.

May 31, 2018, Frank sends Dunn an email with the subject “Status.” The email noted that Frank had received résumés from six applicants. Later that day, Dunn forwarded Frank’s email to Perez asking in his email, “R u ready to mail in your resume?”

Perez directs Straubel and Dickerson to help draft his résumé and cover letter for the position. The work was performed during police work hours and using police computers.

June 5, 2018, Perez sends an email invitation to a meeting the next day in his office. Officers confirm the purpose of that meeting was to work on Perez’s résumé and cover letter.

June 6, 2018, shortly before the scheduled meeting with Perez, Straubel sends Dickerson an email  with the text “Cover letter” and attaching a document titled “Document1.” The document titled “Document1” is a draft cover letter for Perez that appears to be substantially similar to the one Perez eventually submitted to Frank.

June 8, 2018, Dickerson sends Perez an email with the subject “Document Review.” Attached to this email was a draft résumé and cover letter for Perez that Straubel and Dickerson subsequently informed the FBI they had helped prepare. Straubel took a screenshot of this email, as well as a screenshot of his response containing suggested changes, which he provided the FBI.

June 9, 2018, Frank emailed Perez. “Just wanted to make sure you have a copy of the profile for the Police Chief Search – the deadline i[s] June 15 for résumés and cover letter to me and my partner as indicated on the attached.” Approximately 15 minutes later, Perez responded by email, “Thanks, I have completed all the required material and will submit it on Monday.”

June 11, 2018, Perez sends officers email invite for a meeting that day at 11:30 a.m, for the purpose to complete his résumé and cover letter. Less than an hour after meeting Perez emailed his résumé and cover letter to Frank copying Dunn to apply for the police chief position. Other than address modifications, the cover letter and résumé that Dickerson had sent Perez on June 8, 2018 was substantively identical to the one that Perez emailed to Frank.

June 18, Frank emailed Perez and the other ten remaining candidates informing them that she had reviewed their resumes and believed they met the minimum qualifications for the position. As a result, because the police chief position was “under the Bridgeport Civil Service System,” a “written test is required.” Frank explained that the written exam portion of the process consisted of a three-page questionnaire and two essay questions. Frank’s email directed that each candidate had to personally complete the written exam. “The attached Written Exam/Questionnaire will be graded so please complete yourself and please provide accurate/truthful information.”

Dunn asks Frank to implement changes to the scoring system for grading the questionnaires, all of which benefited Perez such as modifying the scoring system to: award more points for duration of law enforcement experience; eliminate any penalty for not residing in Bridgeport; and eliminate any penalty for the lack of a bachelor’s degree.

June 21, 2018, Perez meets with Straubel and Dickerson for help to prepare his responses to the written exam and essay responses. Officers substantially completed both essays including  researching, drafting, and editing Perez’s responses, some of which was done while at work.

June 25, 2018, Perez emailed his completed  written exam  to Frank and copied Dunn among others. Frank wrote back to Perez, “It is not appropriate for David (Dunn) to have a copy – no other candidate is doing that – all the questionnaires will be graded by me and David will see all of them at the same time.” Approximately 25 minutes later Perez forwarded Frank’s email to Dunn writing, “David, you are the Civil Service Director no one ever told me that you are entitled to see my essay, I am confuse.” After Frank spoke with Dunn, Frank wrote to Perez, “David said he has not reviewed so everything is ok.”

Frank scored the Questionnaire and Essays. The changes to the scoring guide Frank made at the direction of Dunn increased Perez’s score.

July 17, 2018, Frank emails Perez. “You did pass the written exam so you will now move on to the oral exam – a telephone interview with me … . [T]he oral exam will be part of the process to determine who are the finalist candidates.”

Frank sends Dunn an email with the subject “Status Report for Police Chief Search.” That email had two attachments. The first attachment was titled “Police Chief Search Status Report july 2018.” The second attachment was titled “Draft oral exam for top 8 Police Chief Candidates,” which contained “the oral interview questions that I plan to use.”

July 18, 2018, Dunn forwarded that email (including attachments) to Perez writing, “Call me please.”

July 20, 2018, Perez directs Straubel to access his city email account and print the attachments to the July 18, 2018 email from Dunn.

Straubel took photographs of the attachments to Dunn. He subsequently provided them to the FBI.

Perez instructs Straubel to use the questions that Dunn had provided Perez to draft answers
that Perez could use in his Oral Exam with Frank.

Straubel was placed on administrative leave upon discovery of the racists texts involving Porter before he could complete draft answers to the oral exam questions for Perez.

Straubel’s Racist Texts
On July 26, Perez was notified by Internal Affairs that a citizen’s complaint had been filed by a retired police officer against Straubel.

In the text thread Straubel writes in an exchange with a friend:

“I asked porter if he had seen planet of the apes

He said … yes

I asked him if it made him homesick.”

The remarks were about Porter, the highest ranking African American in the department.

In the exchange attributed to Straubel he adds “He’s not even marching in the nigger parade but I have to,” a reference to Bridgeport’s Juneteenth Parade, a date that symbolizes the end of slavery for African Americans.

The government’s complaint includes this footnote:

Government footnote: Officer-1 is a former BPD officer who has been interviewed by the FBI multiple times and provided information to the FBI with no promise of any benefit. Officer-1’s information has been corroborated by other witnesses, emails, photographs, and recordings. Officer-1 was put on administrative leave by ARMANDO J. PEREZ, the defendant, in July 2018, and eventually retired from the BPD, following a report to BPD Internal Affairs that Officer-1 had used racist language in certain electronic messages to another BPD employee.

July 30, 2018, after directing Straubel not to return to the office,  Perez visited him at his home. Straubel recorded the conversation on his cellphone.

“Where did you leave the stuff you were working on for me?”

Straubel responded that it was in a file stored on his police department computer. He offered to sneak into headquarters in order to pick up the materials.

Perez: “sneak in there for me please.”

August 1, 2018, Straubel spoke by phone with Perez which Straubel recorded at the direction of the FBI. Straubel asserted he had tried to go to police headquarters the prior night, but that it was “just a little much,” and he asked Perez if he wanted him to try to get in again.

Perez: “If you can do it please. Cause I’m running out of time. And you’re the only one who can help me.”

Perez told Straubel the best way to sneak in, including which doors and stairs to use, and the best time to go in to increase the chance that nobody would be around. When Straubel suggested that the two of them could go over the materials together in the future, Perez responded, “Yeah,” and that he needed to “start studying.”

August 2, 2018, Straubel spoke again by phone with Perez in a recorded conversation.

Perez: “And if you can bring me that stuff. I’m lost here man.”

Straubel responded that he thought he “remember[ed] some of the test
questions,” and would try to get them together.

In a call later that day Straubel told Perez he was “trying to struggle through the questions,” but was not yet done. Perez responded that Straubel should not “worry about” that, and focus instead on his own employment situation.

August 9, 2018, Frank conducted oral exam with Perez by telephone. Frank concluded that the applicants scored fairly evenly on the oral exam.

September 4, 2018, Frank invited Perez and other six remaining candidates to participate in the final stage of the Examination Process, a panel interview with five independent panelists, including Frank. The Panel Interview was eventually scheduled for October 19, 2018.

September 10, 2018, the Connecticut Post published an article critical of the secrecy surrounding the police chief hiring process. Perez was quoted “I’m a candidate,” and stating “That’s all I know … . I’ve stayed away from (seeking details about the search process) just to make sure it was objective … . I don’t want anybody to say ‘A.J. influenced.'”

In response to this article, Dunn circulated an email to the Mayor’s office with bullet
points for a proposed statement outlining how the selection process had worked and detailing how it complied with the City’s Charter. Dunn specifically suggested that the City’s response should emphasize the “Confidentiality of the test questions/candidates/examiners,”

Dunn’s input was incorporated, in part, in an October 30, 2018 “op-ed” by the Mayor defending the integrity of the City’s police chief selection process.

October 9, 2018, approximately 10 days before the panel interview Dunn sent Perez an email
with the subject “Attachment” and attaching a document titled “Bridgeport Police Chief Questions,” which contained 42 suggested questions for the panelists to ask, 15 of
which were highlighted.

October 11, 2018, Dunn forwarded Frank’s email with the “Bridgeport Police Chief Questions,” from his City email account to his own personal email account.

October 15, 2018, approximately four days before the panel Interview, Dunn texted Perez
“Call me regarding sgt exam.”

In advance of the October 19, 2018 Panel Interview Frank provided the five panelists with her notes from each candidate’s previous Oral Exam. She also provided the panelists with each candidates cover letter, résumé, and essays, which in the case of Perez had been prepared by Straubel and Dickerson at Perez’s direction.

October 17, 2018 according to a panelist who was one of the five interviewers selected by Frank and Dunn, Dunn called panelist at home. During that call, Dunn stated that the mayor wanted Perez to be “in the top three.”

Panelist characterizes the statement to be “totally inappropriate” given his position and the importance of the independent examination process.

Editor’s note: Dunn denies claim he made the remark to the panelist about the mayor.

October 19, 2018, Frank provided the rankings to Dunn who certified the three highest-ranked candidates, including Perez to the mayor.

October 19, 2018, after learning that he had placed in the top three–and therefore was eligible to be selected by the mayor for the police chief position Perez spoke to Straubel by phone, a call recorded at the direction of the FBI. During that call, Perez says he had placed second in the police chief test.

“I owe this to you.”

November 5, 2018, Ganim announces he had selected Perez as permanent chief.

Perez received a five-year contract at an annual salary of $145,428. In addition, Perez cashed out more than $300,000 of accrued leave time.

According to a Connecticut Post article, after his swearing in ceremony, Perez publicly “insisted he was given no shortcuts by City Hall: ‘I did this on my own.'”

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21 comments

  1. I read the criminal complaint several days ago and it was riveting. It was 25 pages of are you kidding me? A case study in ineptitude where the Chief is being recorded by his boy and the Recently Arrested Acting Director of Civil Service David Dunn who pride himself on being the smartest man in room using his city computer to send answers to the Chief!

    Now understand that isn’t close to being the height of their stupidity, they both lie to the Feds. Everyone knows when the Fed’s say they want to talk to you they already know the answers to the questions, just like Chief Pérez. Pun intended. You can rest assured that this isn’t the first time that Recently Arrested Acting Director of Civil Service David Dunn has done this because he was so comfortable and cavalier about using the city computer and leaving messages of the phone of his co-conspirator. Was this done for the Fire Chief Richard Thode, who like Chief Pérez, a nice guy, but dumb as a tree stump! We were to believe that he was the better candidate than Leonard Carmichael, a retired deputy chief who briefly served as acting fire director in New Jersey who has several Degrees in Fire Science? Did Recently Arrested Acting Director of Civil Service David Dunn do his magic on that one too, but unfortunately that was a few years before we knew that level of his deceit, well at least until most of you knew because Mackey and I knew years prior.

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  2. Alright in the interest of fair play I was told I was to hard on Fire Chief Richard Thode when in reality he is just 2nd on the list of Are You Kidding Me? Retired Fire Chief Brian Rooney who Recently Arrested Acting Director David Dunn certified as qualified with only a high school education, 4 years in the military and 25 years experience on the Bridgeport Fire Department. He was chosen over Daniel Armbus who’s qualifications were as follows, Education
    • University of Utah
    Master of Science (M.S.), Economics 2004
    • University of Utah
    Master of Public Administration (M.P.A.), Local Government Administration 1988
    • Western Oregon University
    Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Fire Services Administration 1991
    • University of Utah
    Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Management 1984
    • University of Utah
    Graduate Certificate Program in Conflict Resolution 2003 – 2004.

    As we know Retired Chief Brian Rooney was chosen and those of us that were around then wondered how in the hell was he in the same category with Mr. Armbus and who helped him out with this because Rooney was dumb as a Bag of Rocks. Just wondering if Recently Arrested Acting Director of Civil Service David Dunn did his magic act with this promotion and did the success of this fuel his desire to continue without worrying about getting caught? I did it before and I can do it again because I’m the smartest man in City Hall!

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    1. Fire Chief Dan Andrus wanted to be the Fire Chief in Bridgeport because he wanted to relocated to New England because he has relatives living here. After not being selected here in Bridgeport Dan moved on to Concord, New Hampshire to become their Fire Chief.

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  3. Only In Bridgeport

    Brian Rooney To Retire As Fire Chief, Who’s Next In Line?
    May 17, 2016 LennieGrimaldi Analysis and Comment, Civil Service, Firefighters, News and Events58 Comments

    UPDATE: Bridgeport Fire Chief Brian Rooney is planning his retirement from the department later this week, per city charter regulation limiting the chief’s tenure to two five-year terms. One of the prominent names as a possible replacement on an acting basis is Assistant Fire Chief Richard Thode, a department veteran for more than 20 years. Thode resides in Bethel.

    As chief, Rooney earned something of a financial windfall. As a contract appointment, he was placed into a 401k pension plan run by the International City Managers Association, outside of the municipal pension system. As a result, because he came up from the ranks of the department, he was allowed to receive his city pension for years of fire service while also receiving the chief’s pay. So he’s actually retiring for a second time.

    Under a charter revision approved by city voters nearly 30 years ago, the chiefs of police and fire can serve up to two five-year terms. Mayor Joe Ganim in March installed AJ Perez as acting chief following the resignation of Joe Gaudett who accepted a consulting arrangement with the department to oversee emergency response. Gaudett also was allowed to receive his city pension in addition to his pay as chief. The municipal salary range for police and fire chiefs is $129,778 to $142,576.

    Rooney was first appointed chief from within the department by then Mayor John Fabrizi in May of 2006. He had his supporters as well as detractors in the department including retired African American city firefighters Ron Mackey and Donald Day, active in the Firebird Society of Bridgeport, who had challenged Rooney’s credentials for the job. They have criticized the lack of blacks, Latinos and women serving in public safety senior management positions.

    It’s unclear when a civil service testing process to secure permanent chiefs of police and fire will take place. The process from start to finish would likely take up to one year. The mayor, per charter authority, can select from the top three ranked candidates.

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  4. “October 15, 2018, approximately four days before the panel Interview, Dunn texted Perez.”
    “Call me regarding sgt exam.”

    Lennie, the complaint is mainly about the Chief of Police test. This text mentions the sgt exam. Was there such exam given or pending around this time period? I Believe there was. I’m sure Bob Walsh will say that it’s a cover to talk about the Chief’s exam. Either way, this text puts the sgt exam (if there was one) into question.

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  5. Good morning Lennie. Hope you’ll chime in and provide us with your take on my questions.
    “Government footnote: Officer-1 is a former BPD officer who has been interviewed by the FBI multiple times and provided information to the FBI with no promise of any benefit.”
    What officer 1 and 2 participated in and admitted to is a conspiracy. If no promise of any benefit was made to officer 1, officer 2 didn’t get any promise of benefit. Why didn’t they get arrested? Easy to convict them as they’ve admitted that they were willing participants. I wonder if officer 1 tipped off officer 2 of a visit by the FBI and warned him about lying to them. More arrests are coming.

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  6. Porter should be the acting chief … I like Garcia but enough is enough with non qualified choices .
    Yes she checks boxes a the first female chief but it’s time to go by the original book charter

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  7. Agree. If the city wants to change the charter then change the charter. Do not go saying this doesn’t apply, this doesn’t apply or that doesn’t apply.
    Joe said we have come together and make changes. Well the first change would be to live by the rules that are already in place. A minimum requirement is not to be waived.
    Period.
    The second change is to stick by the charter when it comes to boards and commissions. Expired terms are expired term. Quit playing games. All should be addressed bout first let’s deal with Police and Civil Service.

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